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(photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
NEW YORK – It’s parade season in New York City, and hundreds of thousands of American Jews plan to take their support for Israel to Fifth Avenue on Sunday.
The Salute to Israel Parade is an annual event and the largest public celebration of Israel in the world, noted Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which oversees the event.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people in marching groups and bands and as spectators, from New York and beyond, turn out at the parade route, running up Fifth Avenue between 57th Street and 74th Street from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Celebrities and dignitaries will be on hand, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
This year, celebrities who are expected to make an appearance include NBA player Omri Casspi, who was born in Holon and grew up in Yavne, boxing champions Yuri Foreman (who made aliya from Belarus at age nine) and Dmitry Salita, as well as Israeli supermodel Adi Neumann.
The parade’s grand marshal is Meshulam Riklis, the Israeli business magnate who owned or controlled major companies such as Smith-Corona, Samsonite, Playtex, Faberge, Elizabeth Arden and Carnival Cruise Line.
An annual event since 1964, the parade is a festival of music and entertainment and an opportunity to showcase the American Jewish community’s support for the Jewish state.
“It’s unique,” said Benjamin Krasna, Israel’s deputy consul-general in New York. “You can’t help marvel again and again at the amount of support and the marching up Fifth Avenue.”
The parade transcends politics and reaffirms the bond between the US and Israel, Krasna said. “It’s a constant both for us and the US, and I think that’s always the thing you have to remember.”
This year, 150 registered marching groups will make their way up Fifth Avenue, an increase from 130 last year. Sixteen marching bands will also participate, along with 30 floats and other moving vehicles, including an Israel-made electric car. “Everyone who comes plays an important role,” said Michal Brickman, executive producer of the parade.
Participants range from synagogue groups to schools, community centers and clubs. “Anybody that wants to come and show support, all friends of Israel,” Brickman said.
Among them, representatives of One Family Fund and Team One Family – a
group of athletes training for a triathlon to raise money for the
– will be participating.
“It’s a fantastic way of connecting to Israel,” said Sammy Zack, the
founder of Team One Family. The parade is “really much more to support
Israel and to go out there and show we’re thinking about Israel and
we’re very connected to Israel.”
Each year, participants represent a theme meant to be both educational
and entertaining: This year, the theme is “Lights... Camera... Action...
ISRAEL!” and groups were encouraged to tell their stories about Israel
through banners and other props that have to do with Hollywood and film.
“Basically, every group picked a subject and creatively, they’re
interpreting that in a movie-making atmosphere,” said Francine Cohen,
creative coordinator for the parade. Banners may look like film strips,
for instance, but each group is telling a story about Israel, whether it
is about kibbutz life or Israel’s electric car industry. Anything goes,
said Cohen, who said themes are a “fun tool for interpreting the
stories” about Israel.